Educators’ Guide for Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks

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Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont
Author: Nick Brooks
Published: October 4th, 2022 by Union Square Kids

Summary: Something cool happening in Ferrous City? Not a chance.

Until one day . . . when self-proclaimed genius inventor Ethan Fairmont runs into an abandoned car factory to avoid a local bully and accidentally stumbles across his ex-best friend Kareem, new kid Juan Carlos, and an extraterrestrial visitor. Cheese (the alien) is stuck on Earth in need of some serious repairs, spicy snacks—and absolute, total secrecy. That’s easier said than done when mysterious agents descend on Ferrous City to search for Cheese. With time running out and their family and friends in potential danger, can Ethan, Kareem, and Juan Carlos pull off an intergalactic rescue before they’re all found out?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish by Zoe Tokushige, Illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar

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Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish
Author: Zoe Tokushige
Illustrator: Jennifer Naalchigar
Published: September 20, 2022 by Philomel Books

Summary: A hilarious story of new-school hijinks, filled with friendship, family, and plenty of pranks–perfect for fans of Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Meet Airi Sano. After spending her entire childhood moving from one military base to another, she’s excited to be settling down for the long-term in Hawai’i. She’s less excited about her new teacher, who’s determined to make Airi like school. But she’s got a plan: prank her teacher so hard that she gives up on even trying to get Airi to do any work–especially any reading.

But Mrs. Ashton won’t give up, no matter what Airi does. Airi will need the help of her new classmates–who might even be her new friends–to get Mrs. Ashton to crack. It’s time . . . for a prank war!

With fun and funny black-and-white illustrations throughout, New School Skirmish kicks off a brand-new series for readers to adore!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for New School Skirmish:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

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Promise Boys
Author: Nick Brooks
Published: January 31st, 2023 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: Promise Boys is a blockbuster, dark academia mystery about three teens of color who must investigate their principal’s murder to clear their own names. This page-turning thriller is perfect for fans of Karen McManus, Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, and Holly Jackson .

The prestigious Urban Promise Prep school might look pristine on the outside, but deadly secrets lurk within. When the principal ends up murdered on school premises and the cops come sniffing around, a trio of students―J.B., Ramón, and Trey―emerge as the prime suspects. They had the means, they had the motive . . . and they may have had the murder weapon. But with all three maintaining their innocence, they must band together to track down the real killer before they are arrested. Or is the true culprit hiding among them?

Find out who killed Principal Moore in Nick Brooks’s murder mystery, Promise Boys ― The Hate U Give meets One of Us Is Lying.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Discussion Guide for How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra

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How to Heal a Gryphon
Author: Meg Cannistra
Published: October 4th, 2022 by Inkyard Press

Summary: To save her family, she’ll have to make a dangerous bargain and tip the scales off balance.

With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.

When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.

Review: In the first book of the Giada the Healer series by Meg Cannistra, we enter a world where magic is real and mythical creatures exist and we get to meet Giada, a thirteen year old girl from a family of healers. She has magic, just like the rest of her family, but unlike them, her magic works best with animals. She knows she is going to have to tell her family that she wants to work with animals, not humans, but she has been putting it off trying to figure out how to break it to them without them being too upset. But before she can get a chance, she finds herself in the most important fight of her life–one against the witches underground to save her brother. Through this journey, will Giada be able to show that her passion is just as important as tradition?

Readers will love Giada and her story. It is paced so well, with a balance of plot-driven and character-driven elements, a body-positive message throughout, and the magical system & world building is intertwined with aspects of Roman mythology and Italian folklore. I also particularly love the lesson found within the book about passions: Giada’s internal struggle of passion versus expectation is one that so many readers will connect with, and Giada will be a great guide for those in similar situations. 

I was lucky enough to be able to create a discussion guide for Cake Creative Kitchen and Inkyard Press for this book and educators will find that Cannistra’s novel includes imagery and descriptive language, complex characters, an opportunity to look at cause and effect, thought-provoking reflection opportunities, a quest-focused plot that follows the hero’s journey, and more elements that allow the reader to deeply delve into the text. 

This book will definitely leave any reader wanting more, but they’re in luck! The second book in the series, How to Save a Unicorn, is waiting for them! Happy reading everyone!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Discussion Guide for Futureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter

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Futureland: Battle for the Park
Author: H.D. Hunter
Published: November 8th, 2022 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary: When an extraordinary flying theme park arrives above Atlanta, one boy must stop a sinister force from stealing the park’s tech and taking over the world.

Welcome to the most spectacular theme park in the world.

Everyone wants a ticket to Futureland, where you can literally live out your wildest dreams. Want to step inside your favorite video game? Go pro in a sports arena? Perform at a real live concert? Grab your ticket and come right in.

Yet with all its attractions, Futureland has always just been home to Cam Walker, the son of the park’s famous creators. And when Futureland arrives at its latest stop, Atlanta, Cam is thrilled for what promises to be the biggest opening ever. . . .

But things aren’t quite right with the Atlanta opening. Park attractions are glitching. Kids go missing. And when his parents are blamed, Cam must find the missing kids and whoever’s trying to take down his family . . . before it’s too late.

Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the discussion guide I created for Futureland: Battle for the Park:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For:

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Up In Flames by Hailey Alcaraz

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Up In Flames
Author: Hailey Alcaraz
Published: October 3, 2023 by Viking

Summary: Gorgeous, wealthy, and entitled, Ruby has just one single worry in her life—scheming to get the boy next door to finally realize they’re meant to be together. But when the California wildfires cause her privileged world to go up in flames, Ruby must struggle to find the grit and compassion to help her family and those less fortunate to rise from the ashes.

At eighteen, Ruby Ortega is an unapologetic flirt who balances her natural aptitude for economics with her skill in partying hard. But she couldn’t care less about those messy college boys—it’s her intense, brooding neighbor Ashton who she wants, and even followed to school. Even the fact that he has a girlfriend doesn’t deter her . . . whatever Ruby wants, she eventually gets.

Her ruthless determination is tested when wildfires devastate her California hometown, destroying her parents’ business and causing an unspeakable tragedy that shatters her to her core. Suddenly, Ruby is the head of the family and responsible for its survival, with no income or experience to rely on. Rebuilding seems hopeless, but with the help of unexpected allies—including a beguiling, dark-eyed boy who seems to understand her better than anyone—Ruby has to try. When she discovers that the fires also displaced many undocumented people in her town, it becomes even more imperative to help. And if she has to make hard choices along the way, can anyone blame her?

In her powerful debut novel, Mexican American author Hailey Alcaraz chronicles a riveting portrait of transformation, resilience, and love with an unlikely heroine who, when faced with unforeseen disaster, surprises everyone, especially herself.

Review: This book reminds us all that we are imperfect, and we won’t always make the right choices. Ruby’s story is set in a backdrop of the California wildfires. The book includes richly realized themes, and I particularly appreciated the ways in which Author Hailey Alcaraz interrogated the intersections of race and class. I was invested in Ruby’s story and rooting for her from the beginning to end. She is certainly flawed (as we all are), and she felt very real to me. I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it. (The audiobook is excellent!)

Tools for Navigation: Teachers might have students map some of the many themes of this book, considering how they are integrated within the text and the lessons they teach readers.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would you describe Ruby? What qualities does she have that are positive? What qualities might she work on? What lessons does she learn?
  • How does the setting shape the story? How might the text be different if the setting was different?
  • How are Ashton, Remy, and Charlie different? How does Ruby’s relationship with each help us understand her more?

Flagged Spreads/Passages: She understood that some things required more than sheer willpower. Some things—the important things, the hard things, the things that defined you as a person—required patience and trust and listening, too (p. 370, Advanced Reader Copy, and the quote may change).

Read This If You Love: Realistic Fiction, Romance, Social Justice Stories

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Aubrey at Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for an honest review**

Educators’ Guide for Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen

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Last Gate of the Emperor
Authors: Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel Makonnen
Published: May 4th, 2021 by Scholastic Press

Summary: An Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this journey to the stars.

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime — a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis — a game rival turned reluctant ally — Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Last Gate of the Emperor:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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